Gay apparel? Donned.
And for maybe the first time in five years, I’ve actually finished the Boston BarHopper Christmas Special with time to spare.
Once again, I asked some of the Boston area’s most talented bartenders to whip up something wintry and festive. And just like the big guy in red, they delivered.
So without further ado, here are a few cocktails that’ll have you full of good cheer and ready to sing a chorus or two.
Outlook Bar + Kitchen, Envoy Hotel
Our first stop is the Outlook Bar + Kitchen in the Envoy Hotel, where Michael Ray aims to keep things simple with a Sherry Cobbler. Calling it an approachable drink that anyone can make, Mike combines Amontillado sherry with orange marmalade, simple syrup, a touch of orange, and spiced cherry bitters.
With the warm, distinctive flavor of sherry, it’s a nutty drink with bright notes of winter fruit. The spiced cherry bitters are optional, Mike says, but they keep things from getting too sweet.
The Bourbon Cranberry Smash is another of Mike’s seasonal favorites. This beautifully presented cocktail contains Four Roses bourbon, apple cider, Fruitations cranberry syrup, mint, and lemon, garnished with sugared cranberries.
Sadly, Mike has since moved on from the Outlook. “Big Mike” leaves some big shoes to fill, having served as Outlook’s bar manager since its 2015 opening, but the talented bar staff is certainly up to the task.
Address: 70 Sleeper Street, Boston
Just down the street from the Envoy, Committee’s Peter Szigeti will help you get into the spirit without getting too much of a holiday glow. His low-ABV Puritan Punch is made with KEEL vodka, 10-year Madeira sherry, mulled wine syrup, orange liqueur, and lime juice.
This is an exceptional cocktail with a rich complement of flavors. The sherry is nutty and spicy, but it’s the mulled wine syrup that steals the show. Mulled wine is one of the most traditional winter beverages; in the form of a syrup, it contributes spice, sweetness, and texture to the drink.
And KEEL vodka is known for its low alcohol content, so you can knock back a few of these without winding up on the naughty list.
“It’s the holidays, so you want to have fun,” Peter says. “But not too much fun.”
Fair enough, but define “too much”…
Address: 50 Pier Four Boulevard, Boston
Speaking of traditional wintertime beverages, Porto offers a dynamic take on the most famous of holiday cocktails. I’m not sure what’s more novel about the Eggnog Flip – its delivery via Porto’s cocktail cart, or the blast of fire that beverage director Neil Quigley adds to boost the flavor.
Starting off with a whole milk, heavy cream, one whole egg, and simple syrup, Neil adds Rittenhouse rye, an overproof whiskey that he says is strong enough to stand up to those rich ingredients and flavors. A reverse shake ensures the drink will be soft and frothy.
That’s when things get weird. With a mix of Lemon Hart 151 rum and tiki bitters in a spray bottle, Neil uses a “flaming mist” to coat the inside of the glass. (It looks way better in person than it does above; I lack the timing, luck, and photography skills to accurately capture the effect.)
That pyrotechnic display isn’t just for show – it ensures that the notes from the rum and the tiki bitters permeate the drink. The result is a smooth, rich eggnog that bursts with flavor. A dusting of freshly grated nutmeg covers the surface. Spicy, sweet, and strong, it’s one of the better eggnogs I’ve had. And definitely the most exciting.
Address: Ring Road, Boston
South Boston’s Capo is awash in Yuletide splendor. A Christmas tree, elaborate wall decorations, and a fireplace make this enormous Italian eatery feel like a cozy living room.
And while there’s no official holiday cocktail on the menu, beverage director Kevin Mabry captures the essence of a winter feast with the Cornucopia. Made with Bulleit bourbon, Cardamaro, butternut squash, and chocolate mole bitters, it’s a bold cocktail with the flavors of autumn and winter.
The butternut squash might sound like the most intriguing ingredient, but it’s the notes of cardamom that really make this drink shine.
Address: 443 W. Broadway, South Boston
Finally, we head to Somerville. Rosebud has been a fixture of Davis Square for 75 years, but I never made it in until this past summer. I’ve been completely enamored of it ever since. If I lived closer to Davis, this would be my regular spot.
Beverage manager Beth Herron leads a cocktail program that changes with the seasons. When I was in last week, she was in the process of naming the latest addition – a blend of Privateer Navy Yard rum, Montenegro, and house-made falernum.
Wanting something that suggested both the seafaring nature of a privateer and the seasonal flavors in the drink, she settled on Good Tidings – or perhaps, Good Tide-ings.
Either way, it’s a clever pun and an outstanding cocktail. It might sound like a tiki drink, with the rum and the falernum, but one sip will transport you to grandma’s kitchen on Christmas Eve. The baking spices in the falernum complement the molasses, and the amaro keeps it from being too sweet. A star anise garnish adds a little holiday charm.
While you’re there, check out the Rockin’ Hot Toddy. I was at Rosebud last week when we got hit with that first blast of frigid winter air, and I credit this warm drink with bringing some semblance of feeling back to my extremities.
It features a house-made “rock and rye,” which, as lead bartender Kelley Darakjy explained to me, is a revival of a 19th-century recipe of rye whiskey infused with rock candy syrup, citrus peels, and a host of spices. Combined with Earl Grey syrup, Punt e Mes, and orange, it’ll revive you when the mercury plummets.
Address: 381 Summer Street, Somerville
I’d like to thank Michael, Peter, Neil, Kevin, Beth, and Kelley for making such excellent cocktails and taking a few minutes to chat about them. It’s such a pleasure to sit at their respective bars, and whenever I do, I feel like I come away a little smarter (albeit slightly drunker).
Whether you’re rockin’ around the Christmas tree or trying to get a break from the typical pre-holiday chaos, be sure to stop by one of these fine establishments for a cup of cheer. I know you’ll be in good hands.
Here’s hoping your holidays are warm, safe, peaceful, and spent among friends and loved ones. This will probably be my last post of 2016, so thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next year.
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